||This article's lead section may not adequately summarize key points of its contents. (September 2010)|
René Arnoux in 2008
|Born||4 July 1948|
|Formula One World Championship career|
|Active years||1978 – 1989|
|Teams||Martini, Surtees, Renault, Ferrari, Ligier|
|Races||165 (149 starts)|
|First race||1978 South African Grand Prix|
|First win||1980 Brazilian Grand Prix|
|Last win||1983 Dutch Grand Prix|
|Last race||1989 Australian Grand Prix|
René Alexandre Arnoux (born 4 July 1948 in Pontcharra, Isère) is a retired French racing driver who is a veteran of 12 Formula One seasons (1978 to 1989). In 2006 he raced in the inaugural season of the Grand Prix Masters formula for retired F1 drivers.
European Formula Two champion in 1977, René Arnoux graduated to Formula One in 1978, with the small French Martini team of Tico Martini. In an organisation with insufficient means to figure in the highest echelon of the sport, Arnoux was unable to demonstrate his abilities. Martini abandoned Formula One during the season, having run short of money. Arnoux found refuge at the end of the season at the Surtees team, but once again found himself in a team on the edge of failure.
For the 1979 season, Arnoux joined the Renault team, which entered two cars for the first time since its debut in 1977. The team's only victory of the year was taken by Arnoux's teammate Jean-Pierre Jabouille at the French Grand Prix at the Dijon-Prenois circuit, but Arnoux took the headlines due to a fierce but good-natured wheel-banging battle with Gilles Villeneuve for second place, where Arnoux took third.
In the 1980 season, Arnoux took his first two Formula One victories, the first being at a much-protested Interlagos circuit in Brazil but a lack of reliability prevented him from playing a part in the fight for the world title, although he took three pole positions. Arnoux's situation was complicated in 1981 by the arrival of Alain Prost at Renault. Inevitably their rivalry on track flared up off the track and relations between the two men deteriorated, dividing the small world of French motorsport. The conflict reached its peak at the 1982 French Grand Prix at the Circuit Paul Ricard. The drivers took the first one-two in Renault's history in Formula One, Arnoux finishing ahead of Prost. Prost was furious, considering that his teammate had not kept to the team orders agreed before the race, according to which he should have ceded the win to Prost, who was better placed in the championship. Arnoux replied that no orders had been given before the race and that he was free to drive his own race. He took one other win at the Italian Grand Prix at the end of the season. He was also lucky to walk away from a high speed crash after brake failure at the end of the long straight in the Dutch Grand Prix.
The pairing of Prost and Arnoux having become unsustainable, Arnoux left Renault at the end of 1982 to join Scuderia Ferrari. With three victories, at the Canadian, German, and Dutch Grands Prix, he was in contention for the world title for much of the season, but was left behind by his rivals Prost and Nelson Piquet in the championship run in. With the McLarens of Prost and Niki Lauda dominating 1984, Arnoux had a less successful second season at Ferrari, only finishing 6th with 27 points, with his new teammate Michele Alboreto progressively taking the initiative and team leadership from him. After finishing 4th in the opening race of the 1985 championship in Brazil, Arnoux was suddenly dismissed from the team with no explanation ever given by either driver or team. His place in the team was taken by Swedish driver Stefan Johansson.
Without a drive for the rest of the 1985 season, Arnoux made his return to Formula One in 1986 for the Ligier team (powered by the Renault turbo engine), where he delivered several good performances. However, despite maintaining his motivation, Ligier were not competitive and Arnoux went through three seasons at the back of the grid before leaving Formula One after the 1989 season. Towards the end of his career Arnoux attracted some controversy; he was frequently accused of blocking faster cars in qualifying and when being lapped, even taking off a number of cars as well, such as race leader Gerhard Berger at the 1988 Australian Grand Prix (of all the experts and commentators who blamed Arnoux for taking out Berger's Ferrari and ruining the race as a spectacle, Berger himself refused to do so citing a "very long" brake pedal after his hot pace which meant he couldn't stop to avoid Arnoux, nor pass him more easily as he normally would have. He also cited the fact that with his turbo boost turned up to full, the Ferrari would have run out of fuel long before the race ended).
During the 1989 Monaco Grand Prix BBC commentator Murray Walker remarked that Arnoux's claimed reason for going so slow at that stage of his career was that he was used to turbo powered cars and that the naturally aspirated cars were "a completely different kettle of fish to drive - he says". Walker's co-commentator, 1976 World Champion James Hunt's reply was typically blunt as he said "And all I can say to that is bullshit". Arnoux received criticism after the race for continually ignoring the blue flags, with former Renault team mate Prost in particular held up by the Ligier which refused to let the McLaren lap him for a number of laps. Arnoux finished his career with 181 World Championship points, his last race being the very wet 1989 Australian Grand Prix in Adelaide where his Ligier was pushed into retirement by the Arrows of Eddie Cheever after just 4 laps. Showing he still had skill as a driver, Arnoux was second fastest to the McLaren-Honda of outgoing World Champion, pole man and acknowledged rain master Ayrton Senna in the extra half hour warm up that was scheduled to let drivers and teams set up their cars for what would be a wet race after three days of typically sunny Australian weather.
René Arnoux has since started an indoor karting business called Kart'in, consisting of four tracks in France, two in the Parisian area, one in the suburbs of Lyons and one near Marseille. He also owns and manages two factories, frequently appears and drives in historical events on behalf of Renault and resides in Paris.
Arnoux was one of the drivers invited to take part in the Grand Prix Masters championship in 2006 and 2007, restricted to former Formula One drivers. In 2007 and 2008 he drives for the Renault H&C Classic Team, e.g. presents and drives Alain Prost's F1 car from 1983 at World Series by Renault events.
Complete Formula One World Championship results
(key) (Races in bold indicate pole position, Races in italics indicate fastest lap)
- ‡ Race was stopped with less than 75% of laps completed, half points awarded.
(key) (Races in bold indicate pole position) (Races in italics indicate fastest lap)
|1978||Automobiles Martini||Martini MK23||Ford Cosworth DFV||INT
|1983||Scuderia Ferrari||Ferrari 126C2B||Ferrari V6 (t/c)||ROC
|European Formula Two